(Article for publication week of 6-15-2011 AD)
“[God] hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His Own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (II Timothy 1:9).
Almost everybody who professes to be a Christian claims to believe something about grace. Only the most blatant works mongers would suggest that they could be saved by their own efforts apart from God’s grace. However, by the time they add all their “ifs and buts“, and conditions that must be met by the sinner, the vast majority end up denying salvation by grace, and insisting that sinners have to help the Lord in His work of salvation.
But notice please that our text speaks not of salvation as a joint effort between God and sinners, but declares that salvation is all of the Lord from first to last. The salvation of a sinner is not according to the sinner’s purpose, but according to God’s purpose and that was in Christ before the world began. Before He ever created a world, God chose a definite number of the race of Adam for salvation. He gave them to His Son and loved them with an everlasting love. At the appointed time God’s coequal and eternal Son joined His blessed Deity to sinless manhood and died a substitutionary death for all the Father gave Him. He rose again for their justification and ascended back to the Father where He ever lives to intercede for them. And according to God’s eternal purpose, when it pleases Him, at the time He decreed before the foundation of the world, He sends His Holy spirit to effectually call all He chose, and for whom Christ died. Thus we read the Saviour’s words in John 6:37, “all the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” They come willingly to the dear Saviour for they are called efficaciously by the Spirit as our text says.
Now, I want you to note well that our text says that the believer is saved even before he is called to faith in Christ by the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that the believer is and was saved in eternity. That is exactly what our text today says! And the whole Bible says it! Salvation was all arranged by the great Three in One before the world was made.
And so you see that salvation is not in any sense dependent on the fickle will of sinners. This is what our text means when it says “not according to our works”. Our text draws a clear distinction between grace and works. If you claim to have contributed anything to your own salvation, then you have denied the truth of my text and are a works monger. Again, salvation is not a joint effort between God and sinners, but all of God’s grace.
Well, I can hear somebody saying, “well, God did very much, but I did believe.” I hope you do. I hope you are trusting in Christ Alone. But if you are, it is because God took the initiative and granted you faith when you were effectually called, for saving faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Even the faith whereby a sinner trusts in Christ is a gift from God. And so we preach “sovereign grace.”